OF ALL THE DELIGHTS THAT COME FROM GETTING OUTSIDE AND MESSING AROUND WITH PLANTS, THERE IS NOTHING TO MATCH THE LEVEL OF SMUGNESS THAT COMES FROM PICKING, COOKING AND EATING SOMETHING YOU’VE GROWN YOURSELF.
Thankfully people are no longer afraid to take the plunge and grow some food, even in the smallest of spaces, but there is an important balance to be struck between productivity and making sure things look gorgeous. The trick is to choose your produce wisely and with flair, by which I mean think ‘luxury’. I used to garden on a balcony no larger than the average bathroom, but I had things to munch all year round….here are a few of them:
Herbs are a must: I always maintain that the only difference between all those telly chefs and the rest of us ordinary mortals is that they have bountiful amounts of lush aromatic herbs at their disposal. Even very ‘ordinary’ herbs like parsley, used in abundance can lift a dish out of boring and into sublime with the flash of a knife and the flick of a wrist. To this end I grew a plethora of herbs in pots, which looked great on my windowsill, took up very little space but utterly transformed the food that I ate on a daily basis… luxury indeed.
Edible flowers are another way to eat like a king and have your outside space looking gorgeous at the same time. Nasturtiums are the obvious ones to start with – that sunshiny, velvety, bloom that adds peppery sex appeal to each and every salad and is a cinch to grow in a pot or a windowbox. But there are many other flowers that you can and should sprinkle liberally over your food. Violas are such easy plants to grow, and are both sweet tasting and darkly gorgeous in both salads and used, crystalized, to decorate a cupcake.
BUT IN TERMS OF WORK/REWARD, BY FAR THE BEST EDIBLE YOU CAN GROW IS FRUIT.
On my balcony, I grew blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries and redcurrants, all in pots, I grew my favourite strawberries in hanging baskets (well away from slugs and snails) and they had the sort of strawberry taste that you only get from your own garden or the farmer’s market. In fact, a farmer’s market is the perfect place to get growing these days. There are usually growers there throughout the season, selling vegetable plug-plants. They have done the hard work of nurturing the plant from seed-hood and all that you have to do is plant the little babies and reap the rewards. I’m now a regular visitor to my local market, lured there by all manner of delicious treats – muffins for breakfast, freshly pressed cloudy apple juice and succulent hog-roast sandwiches for lunch…it’s a family day out where you can also do your weekly shop, knowing that your food hasn’t been flown in from thousands of miles away, that the person who grew it or raised it is standing right in front of you, and that you are supporting British produce. Now there’s something to be smug about.